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  • Writer's pictureDaria Danila

(e)Bookworms Explain Why Digital Books Deserve a Place on The Shelfs

Readers in the Netherlands purchased 43 million books in 2023, with a significant increase in the number of ebooks sold compared to the previous year. The Groninger spoke to bookworms to understand what makes digital tomes so attractive.

Kindle e-reader device between books © Daria Danila

According to research conducted by the Collective Propaganda of the Dutch Book Foundation, 2023 set the record for most books sold since 2012. While, overall, the sales of physical books dropped slightly, sales of ebooks registered a 5% increase compared to the previous year.

Many readers seem to have managed to seamlessly incorporate digital copies of books into their libraries, with some of them having done so for years. “Growing up, I could either spend a lot of money on physical books, or just read the copyright-free ebooks, like classics. I mean those were the only ebooks available to me then,” says Maruca, a Master’s student at the University of Groningen. She has been reading ebooks alongside physical books for over 10 years.

(Slides) Maruca's physical bookshelves, and her favourite reading spot on her couch © Daria Danila

A decade down the line, she feels that ebooks fit her lifestyle more than physical books, and the freedom of being able to read on any device at any time is the main reason she reads digitally more: “There’s not that much to be precious about. I can highlight whatever I want, I don’t have to worry about the spine, and I can just switch between the Kindle and my phone any time I want,” Maruca explains. 

More accessible and customizable libraries

Laura is a Physics student, and a voracious reader who swears by ebooks and their convenience. As a student, she does not have much space to expand her physical library, so carrying her books in her pocket is her best alternative: “I mean, you can have an entire library [on an e-reader] and it’s not going to weigh anything,” she says. 

What really makes ebooks worth it for her are all the functions available with this format, such as built-in dictionaries and translation possibilities. For Laura, this not only broadens the horizons on the types of books people can read, but it also makes the act of reading itself more accessible. “ You can change the font, not just the size of the text. It’s super useful if you have any sort of sight issue, or dyslexia,” she explains.

All of these functions have become a familiar part of her overall reading routine, Maruca adds. “I have a preferred font and a way the letters are arranged on the page, and their size and color and everything.”

“Paying 5 to 8 euro for a PDF”

However, the ease with which ebooks can be accessed and purchased can prove to be a disadvantage. “I have spent so much reading a 12-book series and not noticing the money add up,” says Laura. For her, having so many books just one click away requires a bit more self-control, than merely going into a bookstore. 

Maruca echoes this, and explains that she can curb her ebook-buying enthusiasm by reminding herself of the actual product she is buying. “I’m much more aware that I’m paying 5 to 8 euro for a PDF, or on a file that I don’t even get to see physically,” she laughs.

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